John McDonnell's green dream for Lancashire, as ex-shadow chancellor stages county event

Lancashire is perfectly placed to be at the “leading edge” of a green revolution that will produce both the energy and jobs of the future.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 11:58 pm
Updated Saturday, 13th March 2021, 12:02 am

That is the vision being laid out by former shadow chancellor John McDonnell MP ahead of an event exploring how the county can best recover from the pandemic.

The veteran Labour politician is bringing the latest in his series of regional “Claim The Future” discussions to Lancashire this weekend.

The virtual gathering – which will include contributions from Preston City Council leader Matthew Brown and South Ribble Borough Council’s communities and social justice cabinet member Aniela Bylinski-Gelder – will explore the sort of society that could be created after the Covid crisis subsides.

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John McDonnell visiting anti-fracking protestors on Preston New Road in 2017
John McDonnell visiting anti-fracking protestors on Preston New Road in 2017

Drawing on the lessons learned from the last 12 months, Mr. McDonnell says he wants to “pick the brains” of people at a local level about the challenges they are facing and the solutions they are coming up with.

However, he already has one big idea of his own – and that is to position Lancashire as a place that can lead the way in confronting the “existential threat” of climate change that he says is looming on the horizon once the worst of the pandemic is over.

“I think Lancashire has got the opportunity – with a combination of wave and wind power off its coast – to be able to [become] one of those areas that will generate the energy of the future. And with that will come significant numbers of well-paid, skilled jobs.

“There is real potential around the Morecambe coast, in particular – and Lancashire could become a hotbed of initiative around [the concept of] a green new deal.

“It is so well-placed to demonstrate [how] a range of communities can plan their futures on the basis of tackling climate change and creating the jobs that give us the alternative energy we need, but also a sense of community control over the environment.

“As a result of that, we will be able to fend off anyone ever again raising the threat of fracking,” said Mr. McDonnell, who championed the idea of a green new deal during his time at the top of the party and visited anti-fracking protestors at the Cuadrilla site in Fylde in 2017.

In the year since he returned to the backbenches, he has created the Claim the Future initiative, which has produced policy proposals in a range of areas and, according to its founder, seeks to bring stability after a period dominated by the pandemic and austerity.

“People are feeling deeply insecure, understandably – and many of them have experienced a period which has been pretty rough.

“Now we have got to give them a sense of security that they will have the basics in life – a job, a minimum income they can live off and a roof over their heads – and that’s the job of government and the state.

“If the pandemic has proved anything, it’s that we need the state at every level – central government, local government and the NHS.

“We have got to create an unstoppable climate of opinion around these ideas so that, whatever happens, no-one can ignore them.”